Air Canada has afforded themselves another high caliber blunder as their station in Budapest put up a 14 year old girl traveling by herself with complete strangers in a hotel room.
The girls flight was eventually canceled due to a mechanical issue and as a result passengers were accommodated into hotel rooms, however apparently there weren’t enough rooms for every separate party.
As a result the airline pooled passengers and put them up in hotel rooms together, people that are pretty complete strangers to each other. It seems the agents in Budapest didn’t think much about the controversial aspects that their actions have when they placed a 14 year old girl with strangers into a hotel room in Hungary.
You can access the story via CBC on their website (see here).
Air Canada is investigating after the mother of a Saskatoon girl travelling alone couldn’t get in touch with the 14-year-old when her flight home from Budapest was delayed.
According to the airline, Timea Vajda’s mother, Csilla Vajda, contacted the airline Sept. 4 after the Aug. 20 flight was delayed due to a “mechanical issue.” The girl had also arrived at the airport after travelling on a bus from Romania, an Air Canada spokesperson said in a statement. …
The cancelled flight left Timea sharing a hotel room with strangers overnight because there weren’t enough rooms for everyone, her mother said. Timea boarded a flight home the following day.
Her mother called each number listed on the Air Canada website for more information after she couldn’t get in touch with her daughter, but no one could tell her Timea’s whereabouts. …
In an email to CBC, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said that had Timea been enrolled in Air Canada’s Unaccompanied Minor program, they could have better supervised her journey. …
“Our agents in Budapest made efforts to accommodate the child, and we are still investigating the full sequence of events that occurred after the child arrived alone at the airport on a bus from Romania. We remain in touch with the girl’s mother since she first contacted us Sept. 4 to address this issue.”
Air Canada’s website says that for unaccompanied youths, the airline will arrange for accommodation, meals and transportation if needed. In Timea’s case, Air Canada gave her enough money for a sandwich, but no money for a taxi or her own hotel room.
I don’t know what it is with Air Canada and messing up situations that involve minors traveling and then owning up to the mistakes their own airport agents make. It is completely irrelevant how the girl got to the airport and if she was booked as an unaccompanied minor for this flight.
A 14 year old doesn’t require close supervision at all times especially when she is used to travel by herself. Putting her into a hotel room with strangers in a country known for human trafficking is an absolute no go and the airline knows very well she is just 14 years old based on how the reservation is booking and passport details in the reservation from the incoming flight:
Exactly a year ago Air Canada also made headlines when an airport agent bumped a 15 year old boy from a flight and left him at the airport for 24 hours. Air Canada also had nothing but lame excuses back then. I wrote about this case here.
The article mentions the girl being from Saskatoon but the flight from Budapest is going to Toronto. Why is this important? Because the Air Canada spokesperson emphasizes that she wasn’t booked as an Unaccompanied Minor (UM). Problem is:
Air Canada offers an unaccompanied-minor service for a fee of $100 plus tax, where staff will escort children and young people from the check-in area to their destination. It is mandatory for children aged eight to 11, and optional for youth aged 12 to 17. It is only available on nonstop flights.
So based on this their official UM service (see here) would have been unavailable, even if the parents had tried to book it. There is really nothing more to say about this case.
The parents should file an official complaint with Canadian Transportation Agency and consult an attorney to sue Air Canada.
In any way parents or guardians who send their children traveling on their own (be it as an official Unaccompanied Minor or not) should check in together with the child and verbally tell the check-in agent that the passenger is a minor and to provide special care in terms of looking over the reservation. If the agent appears to be disinterested ask for the manager.
If a guardian can not check in together with the child then in the very least equip your child with a working cellphone even if that means to pay roaming charges and train him/her how to interact with staff (do not accept any sort of BS). On a separate note I don’t understand parents who let their 14 year old travel alone by bus in eastern Europe without proper safety precautions. Sounds like Canadian child protective services should follow up with this matter as well.
Just like I wrote in the previous case last year I’m really not sure what is more shocking, the fact that this actually happened or that Air Canada actively tries to sweeten their case and cover up the conduct of their staff.
On top of it all this is not the first time exactly the same situation occurred with Air Canada in Toronto as in 2013, a 13-year-old boy spent the night unattended in the same airport with a $10 food voucher when bad weather caused a flight cancellation. Other passengers on that flight spent the early morning hours in a hotel. Then the case of the bumped 15 year old from last year. Why does this airline not learn from their mistakes and give out guidelines to station staff?